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John Dewey

Life and Works
. . Knowledge
. . Morality
Internet Sources

Educated in his native Vermont and at Johns Hopkins University, John Dewey enjoyed a lengthy career as an educator, psychologist, and philosopher. He initiated the progressive laboratory school at the University of Chicago, where his reforms in methods of education could be put into practice. As a professor of philosophy, Dewey taught at Michigan, Chicago, and Columbia University. He was instrumental in founding the Dewey American Association of University Professors as a professional organization for post-secondary educators.

Drawn from an idealist background by the pragmatist influence of Peirce and James, Dewey became an outstanding exponent of philosophical naturalism. Human thought is understood as practical problem-solving, which proceeds by testing rival hypotheses against experience in order to achieve the "warranted assertability" that grounds coherent action. Dewey The tentative character of scientific inquiry makes Dewey's epistemology thoroughly fallibilistic: he granted that the results of this process are always open to criticism and revision, so that nothing is ever finally and absolutely true.

This approach provides a significant opportunity for progress in morality and education, however. Dewey In "Logical Conditions of a Scientific Treatment of Morality" (1903), for example, Dewey tried to show how moral precepts develop and function as confirmable hypotheses. Democracy and Education (1916) describes in detail how an ability to respond creatively to continual changes in the natural order vitally provides for individual and community life. Dewey's social theories shaped during his long association with George Herbert Mead.

Recommended Reading:

Primary sources:

  • John Dewey, Works (Southern Illinois, 1967- )
  • The Essential Dewey: Ethics, Logic, Psychology, ed. by Thomas M. Alexander and Larry A. Hickman (Indiana, 1998)
  • John Dewey, Democracy and Education: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Education (Simon & Schuster, 1997)
  • John Dewey, Experience and Nature (Dover, 1958)
  • John Dewey, How We Think (Prometheus, 1991)

Secondary sources:

  • The Philosophy of John Dewey, ed. by John J. McDermott (Chicago, 1981)
  • Reading Dewey: Interpretations for a Postmodern Generation, ed. by Larry Hickman (Indiana, 1998)
  • Sidney Hook and Richard Rorty, John Dewey: An Intellectual Portrait (Prometheus, 1995)
  • Jennifer Welchman, Dewey's Ethical Thought (Cornell, 1997)

Additional on-line information about Dewey includes:

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